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 (Artificial Insemination. Edited Image Courtesy: epasuhaat.gov.in)
 
 
Modi Government might like Beti Bachao Beti Padhao to be twisted as Beti Bachao Beti Badhao aur Sadakchhap Romeo Hatao in the cattle kingdom. 
The rationale for this bullishness is big rush among livestock entities for import of technology that would empower cows & buffalo to give birth to female calves only. Male calves can also be given birth with the same technique if need be.
At least half a dozen entities have already invited global expression of interest (EOI) for establishing laboratories for producing Sex sorted semen doses of indigenous cattle & buffalo at their respective locations. 
Department of Animal Husbandry, Dairying and Fisheries (DAHDF) expects adoption of this technique to increase in value of output of milk by Rs.9000 Cr. over the medium term, reduce the number of stray bulls on streets and take forward the sacred cow protection agenda. The Department is aiming at addition of 6 million improved females/heifers annually to national milch herd.
Sex sorted semen technology (SSST) is yet another game-changing idea conceived by UPA and scaled up for delivery by NDA. Mooted as domestic R&D proposal in National Livestock unveiled by UPA Government in April 2013, SSST is a major component of both Transforming India initiative (TII) & ‘doubling farmers’ income in five years’ initiative. 
SSST is one of the three dairy sector proposals incorporated in Transforming India & Action Plan Report of 8 Groups of Secretaries presented to Prime Minister Narendra Modi last year. 
The other two are electronic platform for trading of germplasm– ‘EPashudhan’and Sanjeevani which includes issue of Aadhar-type cards and health cards to cattle. All these ideas are in implementation phase. SSST is being pursued under National Programme for Bovine Breeding (NPBB). 
SSST’s multi-faceted benefits have been articulated in almost identical sentences in EOIs issued by Mehsana District Co-operative Milk Producers’ Union (MDCMPU) of Amul fame, DHAD’s Central Frozen Semen Production & Training Institute, BAIF Development Research Foundation and Livestock Development Boards of Punjab,Kerala and Uttarakhand.
Says MDCMPU's EOI, “In Indian context, use of sexed semen is very relevant. First, many states in India have banned cow slaughters, consequent to which many unwanted male calves survive limiting feed and fodder resources to productive cows. In many situations, male calves are just abandoned and their welfare is severely compromised. Applying sexed semen can solve this problem to a great extent”.
EOI continues: “Second, the technology can help in increasing the supply of replacement heifers, leading to higher milk production. Increased production of heifers may also help in increasing the herd strength much faster at lesser cost and with no risk of introducing diseases compared to when one has to purchase animals from other farmers. Increased availability of heifers may also provide an additional opportunity to farmers to sell surplus heifers to other farmers. Third, the technology can speed up genetic improvement by enhancing the efficiency of both progeny testing and embryo transfer and IVF programmes”. 
It adds: “Fourth, dead, dying or damaged sperm cells are eliminated in the sorting process ensuring only viable sperms. This helps the sexed semen more successful in low dosage. Fifth, by producing a female calves using sexed semen, there could be less difficult births compared to male calves (dystocia). This is particularly useful for maiden heifers. Sixth, higher productivity may also help in reducing methane gas production from animals mitigating impact of climate change and helping in reducing overall global warming”. 
The identified service provider would have to create, operate and maintain facilities to sort semen at its semen station from raw semen ejaculate harvested from bulls of indigenous breeds of cattle and bulls of buffalo breeds to produce semen doses having gender specified sperms (either X or Y bearing chromosomes).
EOI-issuing entities have clarified that tender documents would be issued later to companies that would be short-listed from the ones which respond to EOI.
The group of Secretaries on ‘Farmer Centric Issues in Agriculture and Allied Sectors’ pitched SSST as solution to four problems. These are: “ (i) At present out of 300 million bovines only 85 million are 'in milk' leaving large unproductive animals, including 84 million male bovines. (ii) Due to increase mechanization in agriculture, economic utility of male bovines as draught animal and for transportation has reduced. (iii) Increased stress on finite resources available and (iv) Since more than 71% of the cattle & buffaloes are reared by landless, small & marginal farmers, their inability to rear unproductive male calves adds to the growing population of abandoned and stray bovines”.
SSST has utilized abroad for more than two decades. SSST has largely been tested here by importing few SSST doses of exotic breeds over last six years.
According to ‘Vision 2050’ of Indian Council of Agricultural Research's (ICAR's) Central Institute for Research on Cattle (CIRC), “Sex is the most important genetic trait, and being able to choose sex at conception is the most coveted reproductive technology of all times, as confirmed by Greek documents nearly 2500 years old”.
It says: “Commercially available sexed semen at around 90% precision is now a reality and has resulted in a paradigm shift for some dairy herds in developed countries”.
It adds: “The possibility of modifying sex ratio can result in a substantial increase of the production and can enhance the effectiveness of selection and genetic improvement programs, through the differential increment of males or females born after AI. In dairy farming female calves are more attractive than the male calves. This will help in production of replacement daughters from genetically superior bulls and also to get more daughters performance record for progeny testing”.
Vision 2050 has noted that SSST is not common in our country due to the lack of expertise and high cost involved. Hence research has to be undertaken to develop an accurate, effective, easy, non-invasive and cost effective method of sexing of cattle sperm for large scale production at lower price and provided to farmers. There are three issues with currently available sexed semen which will be addressed through increased research efforts; accuracy is only around 90%, cost per semen dose is higher (beyond the reach of Indian farmers) and fertility with sexed semen is about 10% lower than with unsexed semen under ideal management and may be even lower under Indian management conditions.
The global leaders in SSST are two American companies – Sexing Technologies and ABS Global, US-based division of Genus Plc of UK. They have licensed their technologies to many SSST laboratories in the West.
According to National Dairy Development Board’s Dairy Knowledge Portal, semen having X or Y bearing sperm to produce progenies of a desired sex either female or male (with about 80-90% accuracy) is known as sexed semen.
It says that SSST was developed by the United States Department of Agriculture’s researchers in Livermore, California, and Beltsville, Maryland. SSST was patented as “Beltsville Sperm sexing technology”. The commercialization of sexed semen started in United States in 2001 with a license granted to Sexing Technologies (ST), Texas. At present, ST commercially produces sex sorted semen in many countries of Europe, USA, Canada, Mexico, Brazil, China, Japan etc.
Each EOI has proposed that SSST Project will be implemented in two stages: Under Stage-I, the service provider would set up semen sorting facilities to produce 200,000 sex sorted semen doses. Under Stage II, the service provider would produce SSS doses of indigenous breeds of cattle and buffaloes. The first stage is to be completed in three months. Based on the performance under Stage I, service provider would be asked to produce SSS of Indigenous cattle and buffalo breeds and 200,000 sex sorted semen doses to be produced in first year.

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